It was one of those evenings that the Greek Theatre's ushers must dread. Hardly anybody sat down during the INXS show on Wednesday--and every 30 seconds or so the aisles filled up with a new group of enthusiastic boogiers and prospective seat crashers.
The fervor came partly because INXS is made up of six good-looking blokes and many of the younger females in the crowd spent their time screaming--something that's easier to do when you're standing up. But, mostly, you have to credit INXS with completing a transformation it began about five years ago. Once just another Australian pop group, it's become a flat-out modern dance band.
From start to finish, Wednesday's show was propelled by surprisingly persuasive funk, tougher and harder than on the band's albums--but, naturally, spiced with plenty of synthesizers and assorted pop frills. These guys get down funky, but they're not groove-masters like Run-D.M.C., even if they do have a few songs that mix a percussive beat with hard rock guitar, a la Run's "Rock Box" or "Walk This Way."
Clearly though, INXS wants to be more than a batch of pop musicians who've learned to lay down a good back-beat for an hour or two--and that's where it falls short. Any band that walks on stage to the accompaniment of the "1812" Overture and a bunch of smoke has got some portentous goals in mind (especially if most of the musicians are sporting epaulets on one shoulder), but apart from a few songs--such as "Original Sin" and "This Time"--the tunes are too one-dimensionally atmospheric to add up to much.
The usually muddy sound system conspired against them, too. Singer and lead heartthrob Michael Hutchence's vocals were often barely audible, which meant there wasn't much to listen for but the grooves. Still, the dancers didn't seem to mind.